Washington, DC – Tuesday, Feb. 18, 8:15 p.m. EST
It proved more difficult than expected to reach the Egyptian, a bar and restaurant in a turn-of-the century mansion near Dupont Circle. Anna’s driver cut over to Rhode Island Avenue and headed southwest past a development of two-story garden apartments. Brownstones—some boarded up, others with renovated turrets and manicured mini-yards—filled the next blocks. She counted three liquor stores, an organic market, a dry cleaner and two coffee shops. A sign commemorated an Eritrean cultural center, which had recently been knocked down.
At Logan Circle, as they turned west on P Street, Anna took out her phone and ran through her social media feeds, messages and emails. So far, her contacts had said nothing she didn’t already know. A text from Sasha read, “Investigation extensive, secretive and atypical. Still working. Will get back to you.” Great. Useless update, Anna thought. If this Evy woman provides any ideas, it will be a welcome lead.
“There’s a jam up ahead. Looks like a wreck,” said the driver, pointing to a map on his phone
“We’re almost at Dupont Circle. You can stop here,” she told him.
Getting out near the Iraqi Embassy, she walked toward the circle and continued on the outer loop. Not far from the fountain, a few people were setting up a tent. In another section, a group of student types were smoking—a sweet vaguely skunky scent was wafting her way—and a range of others were traversing the park for unknown destinations. She walked a quarter of the way around the circle and continued north on Connecticut Avenue up the hill. Traffic was inching along, one lane in each direction. Emergency lights flashed, sirens blared, and a helicopter circled, low.
Then she knew: The problem was not an accident.
Anna picked up her pace. The police activity was by the Egyptian, which was on a corner where three roads came together—one of those six-way DC intersections where the grid pattern of streets overlaps with a diagonal avenue, creating corner lots like pie pieces. A block away now, she counted five parked police cars and a van, as well as two ambulances and a fire truck. At least a dozen police officers were on the scene. The usually-crowded patio bar was devoid of customers.
She ventured closer. One of the officers was stretching out yellow tape marked “police line do not cross.” A few figures were moving around inside the restaurant. Where was Evy?
For a second, she wondered if there was a bomb scare. Anna surveyed the area but didn’t see a canine unit. A crowd of onlookers had gathered on the west side of the building across the narrow street from the patio, and the police had not removed them. Probably not a bomb.
A news truck with a satellite on the roof pulled up to the curb.
Anna raced ahead. She overheard a witness talking about a gunshot and a speeding car. A few people were crying. More than once Anna heard someone utter the word “terrorism.” She walked up to a woman and said, “Do you know what happened?”
“Some lady got shot!” the woman said.
The man with her added, “We were walking by when we heard a pop. Then all the people ran.”
“Did you see who did it?” Anna asked.
“No,” the man said. “No, we didn’t.”
Anna took another few steps and asked a different woman the same question.
“I heard a bang,” she said. “I saw people scattering and dropped to the ground, but it was quiet after that.”
“Thanks,” Anna mumbled. She snapped pictures of the scene and texted them to the bureau.
When she reached the corner opposite the Egyptian, where the cross streets both intersected Connecticut Avenue, traffic was blocked. She pushed through the crowd and skirted the property. An ornamented wrought-iron fence secured the mansion’s backyard garden, which bordered the street. People were standing along the fence, pointing and talking. One woman held her cupped hand over her mouth. Garden lights illuminated the patio.
Anna snapped more photos. The patio must have been busy. Now empty of people, it was still full of their things—partially eaten meals, half-full drinks, a baby stroller, knocked-over bottles, a dropped serving tray. Patio heaters in rows like trees in an orchard contrasted with the disarrayed chairs and errant napkins.
Three police officers stood talking in the corner closest to her. Anna gasped. At their feet was a supine woman, arms splayed, face to the side. She was so near that Anna had missed her before. A dark splotch marked the beige patio stones beneath her, and a chair next to her body lay tipped over, an obscene sculpture. Was the woman dead? In an instant, the truth became obvious. There was no question. Perhaps even more shocking was the woman herself. Long black hair, jeans, puffer jacket—she was the woman from the theater. The woman was Evy.
Bile gurgled in the back of Anna’s throat. Closing her mouth, she looked away. Guilt washed over her. What if I had been here earlier? Could anyone have prevented this? Why the whole charade with the cell phone? Weren’t they going to cover her up?
Anna’s mind turned to personal safety. She used to think it was paranoid to worry someone might try to kill her, but now she knew her fears were not unfounded. She had personally met reporters and whistleblowers who were jailed or murdered for truth-telling, and terrorists had tried to kill her boyfriend Viktor while he was covering a plot in Chicago.
Doing her best not to draw attention, Anna backed up and walked off. She headed east, north, east, peering behind her occasionally. Many of the homes’ interior lights were on, but there was no time to admire their artwork and antiques. Her phone blipped and vibrated more than usual, but she ignored its cries for attention. She didn’t want to appear distracted—or actually be distracted.
At 16th, she turned south again, and when she reached the corner of S, she sat down on the front steps of a church. Checking her phone for the first time in a half hour, she stared at the screen in disbelief. There were many notifications, including 23 text messages from Evy. The final one said, “If you get this, I’m dead.”
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.